Becoming an Adult in Uncertain Times: A 14-Country Comparison of the Losers of Globalization
Melinda Mills, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Universitat Bamberg
Increasing uncertainty about economic and social developments is a definitive feature of globalization in advanced economies. However, the degree to which youth are impacted by rising uncertainty is filtered by historically grown and country-specific institutional settings. This paper summarizes the main empirical results of the impact of increased uncertainty on the transition to adulthood (entry into labor market, partnership, parenthood) in a 14 country comparative study. Results show that generally all youth are exposed to more uncertainty at labor market entry, yet that it is unequal, with risk accumulating in certain groups. Job uncertainty translates into a higher likelihood to postpone or forgo partnership and parenthood. Youth also develop rational responses, which we identified in the form of diverse behavioral strategies: postponement, multiple roles, flexible partnerships and gender-specific strategies, particularly in the male-breadwinner societies. We illustrate how nation-specific institutions serve to shield or funnel uncertainty in unique ways and to particular groups of youth.